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The Boy Who Saved Baseball


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About the Author

John Ritter has written many novels and numerous short stories for Young Adult readers. His first novel, Choosing Up Sides, published in 1998, won the 1999 International Reading Association Children's Book Award for Older Readers and was designated an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults. Kirkus Reviews praised Choosing Up Sides, which attacked the once-prevalent views of religious fundamentalists toward left-handed children, as, "No ordinary baseball book, this is a rare first novel." In 2004 Ritter received the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People for his third novel, The Boy Who Saved Baseball.


In Ritter's enthralling third baseball tale (Choosing Up Sides; Over the Wall), developers want to come into quaint Dillontown, nestled among a California mountain range, to plow up the historic baseball field in order to make way for a new diamond-and houses and strip malls as well. When 12-year-old Tom Gallagher goes to visit Doc, the old man who owns the land, he raises an issue that gets the man to thinking: "Is it new facilities that would help this town the most, or a new spirit?" So Doc decides to let a single game of baseball determine how his land will be used. Tom finds himself working to get a small, poorly trained group of players ready for the big day. Some unlikely help arrives in the form of Cruz de la Cruz, a mysterious boy who literally rides into town (on horseback) to gear up for the pivotal game and to seek out Dante Del Gato, the legendary San Diego outfielder who supposedly possesses the "Secret of Hitting" (19 hits in as many games). Tom's fear of letting down his community mirrors the tale of Del Gato, who abandoned his team just before the World Series and lives like a hermit in the nearby hills. Ritter paints Dillontown as equal parts Mayberry R.F.D. and Twin Peaks (a homeless rapper/poet who talks into a broken cell phone, a beauty salon with the motto "We'll Chop Your Mop 'Til You Say Stop"). The author takes the cosmic view of a local story: Tom not only strives to save a patch of land but the soul of his hometown. Baseball fans will appreciate the lore, but the prose is also at times stunning ("A boy needs to read the earth.... A boy kept distant from the earth is a boy dissatisfied"), in a book filled with memorable moments. Ages 9-13. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Gr 5-8-This novel goes beyond the usual baseball story by introducing the deeper issue of big developers encroaching upon nature and small-town life in rural California. Doc Altenheimer, an 87-year-old apple rancher, seems to be ready to sell his 320 acres of prime real estate that makes up a good part of Dillontown and its baseball field. He surprises young Tom and the rest of the residents by proposing that the decision should ride on a baseball game between the locals and the well-equipped summer-camp team down the road. Despite the odds against Dillontown, a surprise ending is in store. Characters are colorful and intriguing. There is the villainous mayor who believes there will be great prosperity if new roads and expensive houses are built. A mysterious boy, Cruz de la Cruz, arrives on horseback claiming to know the secret of hitting, and brings hope and spirit back to the residents. He and Tom seek out an old baseball legend, Dante Del Gato, a recluse who walked away from the majors many years before, and convince him to be their coach. Ritter's descriptive passages will have readers feeling they are actually at the ballpark tasting the swirling dust amid the authentic Mexican food cooked by the supportive townspeople. Spanish phrases blend in unobtrusively throughout the saga. This tale is peppered with both optimism and dilemmas; it has plenty of play-by-play action, lots of humor, and a triumphant ending.-Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"Enthralling . . . filled with memorable moments."--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A baseball tale of legendary dimension . . . another stellar read."--Booklist, starred review "This tale is peppered with both optimism and dilemmas; it has plenty of play-by-play action, lots of humor, and a triumphant ending."--School Library Journal "Readers will relate to the themes of overcoming reticence, the drive to meet an impossible challenge, and the thrill of growing into a team."--Children's Literature

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